Is Mental Illness in the Bible?
Is there mental illness mentioned in the Bible? We do not see mental illness spoken of particularly plainly in the Bible, because obviously the cultures of that day did not view mental illness as we do. I am not discounting that the inspired writers did not understand nor did God just decide this century was when it was to be mentioned. But mentally ill persons are surely in there if you look hard enough. Mental illness as well as all illnesses are because of WHAT?
Paul S. Taylor of "Eden Communications" states “One of the human race's most common and distressing afflictions was depression after Adam and Eve sinned against God. Sin twisted and broke every aspect of human nature, from the clarity of our mental processes to the bio-chemical make-up of our brains. Sin has multi-generational effects. It is embedded in every aspect of the social make-up of human communities and relationships." Bottom line sin has altered everything about the entire world.
Types of INSANITY
1. Heart (Spiritual) – Our will powers are disordered because of our sinful nature. Moral insanity is "will-madness." The reason remains unimpaired, but the heart deliberately disobeys. Evil continually (Gen. 6:5) Compare Rom. 3:23 All have sinned and fallen short of the Glory of God. "The heart of the sons of men is full of evil, and madness is in their heart while they live" Ecclesiastes 9:3.
2. Influences (Worldly views of us) Mt. 7:13-14 Sinners strangely accuse saints of being mad and crazy. As soon as Christians begin to act on the truths they believe THE WORLD cries out, "See, they are going crazy and they are uncaring ” We as Christians are charged with insanity every day if we like it or not. JESUS WAS CALLED “CRAZY” The apostles and Jesus was accused of being mentally unstable. (Acts 26:24,25; Acts 2) "apostles drunk?"
3. Head (Biological)- The intellect is out of whack and chemically out of balance - Intellectual insanity can destroy morality not only for mentally ill but for the aged.
There are two basic types of depression: exogenous (situational) and endogenous (clinical or biological). The third type is what I would like to discuss and because I myself suffer and have overcome incredible odds (thru the grace of God).
Depression is not rare. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, 18.8 million American adults (9.5% of the adult population) suffer from clinical depression. “Myths About Depression” by Charles White. White states "The presence of the sick, the poor and the mentally ill are important reminders of Jesus and his ministry in the Gospels. We cannot make the church a museum of “bright, shiny” people or “catalog model” teenagers and call ourselves the same movement that flowed from the ministry of Jesus. The church of Jesus Christ should create- or recreate- itself into a form that includes the broken, the sick and the mentally ill. We should be careful that what belongs to Jesus does not come to resemble a country club. This is a serious argument for some of the kinds of “house” church structures that the emerging church is revisiting. It is a serious critique of the kind of image making many seeker churches pursue."
Stormy Ward a retired minister for the churches of Christ mentions on his blog. “In some people's minds, "depressed" and "Christian" is an oxymoron. Some think that it is a problem with sin, and that the real need is for repentance. Others hold that depression is an expression of weakness (or no) faith. There is no telling how many times suffering Christians have been abused by their brothers and sisters in Christ who speak out of lack of ignorance, fear, or even unintentional mean-spiritedness. One woman wrote, "...My children and I have a mental disorder that is genetically passed on called Bipolar Disorder. I had a fellow church member tell me that she hopes we ask for forgiveness every night, because you can never truly repent with this illness..."
The question arises, have people of faith or people in the bible been troubled by mental illness? If they did, did God condemn them for their state of mind? Lets look at some examples. Both good and bad.
Faithful Sufferers of depression
1.Moses-a hero of faith (Heb.11:23-28) and "more humble than any man on earth (Numbers 12:13)."- "I alone am not able to carry all this people, because it is too burdensome for me. So if You are going to deal thus with me, please kill me at once...(Numbers 11:15)."
2. Jonah-"O Lord, please take my life from me, for death is better to me than life (Jonah 4:3)."
3. King David- Called a "man after God's own heart (Acts 13:22)."-"My soul is in anguish...The troubles of my heart have multiplied...My eyes grow weak with sorrow...My life is consumed with anguish...My soul is downcast within me...My heart is wounded within me...I was overcome by trouble and sorrow...My spirit grows faint within me; my heart within me is dismayed (Various Psalms)."
4. Job- Job is questioned his existence whoever the scriptures tell us he was "blameless, upright, feared God, and turning away from evil (Job 1:1). Job moves from stability and community acceptance to bitter self-loathing and accusations of God’s evil intentions toward him. He sounds very unstable. His “confessional” speeches reveal a man whose world has come apart, and he has lost his anchor of clarity. Early on he states "Why did I not die at birth...(3:11)?" "..My soul would choose suffocation, Death rather than my pains (7:15).
5. Jeremiah-The prophet-who was so esteemed that people even thought Jesus was him (Matthew 16:14)-"My sorrow is beyond healing, My heart is faint within me (Jer.8:18)." AND-"Why did I ever come forth from the womb to look on trouble and sorrow (Jer.20:18)?"
Here, we see evidence that these wonderful men of faith and commitment were so depressed that they even some even welcomed death. You can't get much more "blue" than that. Yet, they were loved and praised by God. WHY?
Society has taught us that everyone is a victim. When a person has problems in his life, he is often told it is the result of his past or how his parents treated him. The end result is that he does not take responsibility for his own actions. We see this today. People are suing cigarette makers because they have smoked for fifty years and are dying of lung cancer. Criminals claim that their dysfunctional families are the reason for their criminal acts. Everyone is blaming someone or something else for their problems. So we cannot also enable those with these handicaps and help their conditions.
What is the church’s responsibility to the mentally ill? Can the mentally ill receive God’s word? Can they participate in the life of the church? But are there limits that must be respected? The answer to all those questions is “Yes.” While there are places in the life of the church where emotional and mental illness would mean some limitations or boundaries, the heart of the life of the church- fellowship, worship, communion, service, celebration, love- should intentionally include the mentally ill.
Ward reminds us "The presence of the sick, the poor and the mentally ill are important reminders of Jesus and his ministry in the Gospels. We cannot make the church a museum of “bright, shiny” people or “catalog model” teenagers and call ourselves the same movement that flowed from the ministry of Jesus. The church of Jesus Christ should create- or recreate- itself into a form that includes the broken, the sick and the mentally ill. We should be careful that what belongs to Jesus does not come to resemble a country club. This is a serious argument for some of the kinds of “house” church structures that the emerging church is revisiting. This is a serious question to ask when looking for a church."
Manic-Depression has given me new strength and made me more willing to share my own life’s struggles with those around me. I so understand this is an incredible gift from God and I write and speak about it because of times I have knelt and wept to my lord almighty. I have been more open for prayer from others. I also believe I have a tiny emotional window into the experience of Jesus in his own dark times, and into his own ministry. My reading of the Bible is deeper. I believe I can enter into the experiences of hurting parents, piers, family friends and depressed church members.
I have experienced thru God's grace a new balance in my own life. I have struggled with serious manic-depression and severe, paralyzing anger in my own life. At times, these afflictions have hampered my thinking and my decisions, and wounded my family. Yet my family has experienced profound healing. My marriage has deeper strength than most we know. Others see and affirm this. My relationship with my family, friends and my congregation have enhanced the person I am today and for that I say thank you dear Lord.